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The Bulls were able to stem the tide of negative PR by successfully re-signing head coach Tom Thibodeau. But there were other indications from the Bulls GM that make the failures of the offseason tough to forget.
Another (final?) thing from media day*, appropriately circling back to where it all began: frustration over how the offseason went.
With the Tom Thibodeau extension being announced right when festivities began, Gar Forman indeed did win the day. What had been just an abysmal offseason to see was at least temporarily glossed-over with the genuinely fantastic news that they at least didn't screw up the coaching situation. This likely isn't a surprise admission, but: I was fearing the worst. And there's certainly credit deserved to Forman and his boss for getting it done. Combining that news with the usual training camp optimism (featuring KURT) meant the Org. did a lot to try and turn the PR momentum this week. The rumors that a Taj Gibson extension may occur this month only strengthens that direction.
But throughout Media Day there was still some stench from the offseason that lingered. During Forman and Thibodeau's joint address (full audio is at Bulls.com) there was some mention of past couple of months, but unfortunately nobody used the phrase "basketball decisions". Doug Thonus of Bulls Confidential asked a specific and valid question regarding how the Bulls chose to acquire Hinrich via a free-agent signing instead of working out a sign-and-trade. Gar's immediate answer was that a S/T requires a 3-year deal. Which is true, but only the first year has to be guaranteed.
[I don't blame Doug for not pressing that issue, and he now speculates that maybe it wasn't really a choice for the Bulls: for example, maybe they already agreed on a smaller contract when the Korver trade went down, and then only afterwards did Milwaukee drive up the price. I'd contend there are no winners in a Kirk Hinrich bidding war, but they seem to really like the guy.]
It's just still so ridiculous when you then hear Gar continue to tout the importance of "flexibility" entering a season where the team put itself in a position the opposite of that. Forman went on 670TheScore Monday and especially when asked about losing Omer Asik (which was mentioned at the presser, but Forman went into the Taj talks as a non-answer) went into some of what we heard before: it's not the payment of the Luxury Tax (...sure...), but the loss of exceptions when in that salary range that they want to avoid:
We had to make some changes as far as our bench is concerned. I think we were in a position where we didn't really want to add long-term contracts or money so that we have some flexibility under the new (CBA) rules in order to continue to add to this team and make improvements.
We've said in the past when we have a team that's ready to compete, and Jerry has said this, we'll be willing to pay the tax in order to put a team together that we feel has a chance to compete for a championship.
Not to re-hash what was several months of previous complaints on this blog, but: the only 'long-term' contract to retain the bench was a 2013-14 price tag on Asik. All of the non-guaranteed deals were simply let go of instead of making an asset-building deal before the draft. Amnestying Boozer would free up room under the tax line but wasn't even considered due to the actual cost of paying his exit. Plus the aforementioned Hinrich hard-cappery.
And if having the full MLE and ability to acquire sign/trades (something the Lakers smartly accomplished before that loophole closed this offseason) is so important, then another shoe has to drop if Taj Gibson is re-signed.
After using the famous (and useless) Reinsdorf non-guarantee of being a tax-paying contender, Gar correctly pointed out that they are technically in the tax right now. But we all can see from the offseason that the Org. didn't do everything it could to win now. Yes, you can argue that it's moving the goalposts that they're now in the tax but not far enough, but they also haven't paid it yet. (And you can argue in return it actually makes less sense to pay now if you are looking to avoid a repeater penalty in the future)
And indeed, when asked on Monday about the lowered expectations of the team this season, Gar certainly didn't sound like someone helming a 'go for it' type of Org. direction. He instead talked in platitudes about the team being the best they can be, not the best among other teams in the league. And we've all heard that 'promise' of a more aggressive future before, and I hope we don't completely buy. Though the Bulls will do just enough to keep one hopeful.
To his part, Tom Thibodeau followed up Gar's comments about expectations very well during that initial presser. Thibs said "potential is meaningless", and if you work like a championship-caliber team and develop those habits, then that's what you can do to best take your shot.
Good attitude on that guy, I'm glad they locked him up.
Some other final thoughts on the front office so far:
- I understand, especially on a happy day like the coach's re-signing, why Forman continues to praise Thibodeau's minutes management. But it's still kind of galling to hear. If you remember, a quick recap from last season: people pointed to too many minutes in blowouts, we were told it was fine, and then everyone got hurt. And now it's still fine. It of course can't be proven that the injuries were causal, but it may have been a factor and I hope that internally the Bulls aren't as dismissive about the concerns as they make it seem.
- I did like both Thibodeau's and Forman's attitude when it came to discussing Derrick Rose's injury. If you heard the Thibodeau radio interviews he made an emphasis to slow down any 'ahead of schedule' talk. And both of them emphasized that Rose has a long way to go, said it won't be a situation with many intermittent updates, which makes sense to me.
- There's a disturbing trend from this offseason involving Tim Floyd. During the WSCR interview his golf date with Forman was mentioned. And just Tuesday he was seen at the Berto Center.
*Thanks for reading the past few days while we changed up our style both visually and editorially. There was a LOT of posts up for media day and I hope you enjoyed them. Not all days will be like that, and we're still figuring things out in terms of how to best use SBNation United, but hope you're enjoying it even if you don't know where everything is yet.